Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chino Valley, AZ
I've been in a similar situation with my old gelding. I was under the impression that he was given to me by my friend that I worked for, who in turn received him from his owners for free because they couldn't afford to have as many horses as they did. Dakota had been with us for over a year and a half when he was given to me. In that time, as far as I know, his owners had not paid one dime for his care, including the corrective shoeing he needed after their farrier screwed up his feet. I did the majority of Dakota's retraining from the ground up, taking him from an ill-mannered, pushy, "spooky" monster who his owners rode him direct-reining in a twisted wire snaffle with his head tied down to his chest, to a well-mannered gentleman who was used as a bareback lesson horse in an eggbutt French link snaffle for a little girl who was terrified of horses. His owners visited him exactly one time in the entire two years we had him, and it was quite by "accident" that they came to see him, as they were dropping off another "wild and crazy" horse of theirs to be retrained by my friend because they couldn't handle him (4yo OTTB with zero manners and no clue about working under saddle properly...but they were still riding him). They saw Dakota for two minutes, complained that he was skinny (he was in perfect weight...he came to us from them very overweight) and they didn't like where he was at (they wanted him in a 12' X 12' box stall with no run instead of the 12' X 20' outdoor mare motel stall with shade/protection...never mind that he went absolutely nuts in a box stall), then left. They came back once to visit their other horse and saw Dakota being used for lessons. Within a few weeks, they had come and taken him back with them, claiming that they had never given him to my friend in the first place (no paperwork was exchanged ever). I had paid for feed and farrier for Dakota for six months, and had cleaned 10-14 stalls per day, plus fed all the horses dinner and worked four of my friend's horses (in addition to Dakota) every day to pay for my stall fee. I had no job and taught piano lessons to pay for his feed and farrier and my gas to drive the 13 miles one way out to the barn. Dakota was worth maybe $500 (8yo Arab/NSH cross who was broke as a 2yo, started over 2' jumps as a 2.5yo, competed hard until he started refusing jumps as a 5yo due to arthritis in his hocks, then "retrained" supposedly as a western pleasure horse, but hated it, and had HORRIBLE ground manners) and I had definitely spent more than that on his care ($80 per month in feed, plus $40 every six weeks for farrier, and my working off $125 per month for his stall fee...in the six months he was "mine," I spent approximately $1350, give or take). Unfortunately, because I had no receipts and no contract, his owners came and picked him up right after Christmas without me knowing it. I found out when I went to house sit at my fruend's house and stopped to see Dakota...and he was gone. My friend off-handedly mentioned that his owners had taken him back and acted like it was no big deal. My heart was broken and my friend and I had a HUGE falling out over it. We didn't speak for over a year, until a mutual friend couldn't take it anymore and acted as a mediator between us. We're tentatively alright now (it'll be three years this Christmas since Dakota was ripped away from me), but it's taken me a long time for me to forgive her and we still don't talk as much as we did.
I guess my point is, get your parents or your BO or someone involved who can speak on your behalf (since you're a minor) and get things in writing so that the same thing that happened to me doesn't happen to you. Save ALL your receipts (regardless of how trivial they seem) and start keeping a log of all money spent on the care of this horse and training time spent with her (you can then approximate your hourly "rate" for training her [I would go with about the same amount that trainers charge for lessons in your area] and add that to what you've spent on her). I agree with the others' assessment that she is worth maybe $1000 given her age and lack of training/handling.
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